The SNP Government will provide North Ayrshire Council and other local authorities with a £30 million package to continue providing free school meals over the upcoming Christmas and Easter 2021 holidays, and a variety of other messages to support those families hit the hardest by the coronavirus crisis.
This is in stark contrast to the UK Tory Government, which has opposed such provision.
In a particularly callous tirade, Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith dismissed free school meals as “nationalising children,” suggesting hard-up parents are simply not “taking responsibility.” He also dismissed the free school meals campaign initiated by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, who has spoken about his own experiences growing up in poverty, as “celebrity virtue signalling.”
Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP said:
“No one should be struggling to put food on the table, keep the lights on, or stay warm at home in the midst of this pandemic. With continuing uncertainty around Brexit and the furlough scheme being scaled back, we are doing all we can to ensure the right support gets to people at the right time in the right way.
“We are giving local authorities greater flexibility over funding held in reserve for the Scottish Welfare Fund, to support local action and address people’s needs. This may include supplementing local budgets to meet demand, providing financial support to tackle food insecurity, meet fuel costs, or boost local funding for Discretionary Housing Payments.
“Additionally, we are making further resources available to ensure the provision of free school meals over forthcoming holidays, including Easter.”
Chair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission Bill Scott, said:
“We welcome this much needed additional help for low income families and individuals. The funding for free school meals during the Christmas, February and Easter breaks will come as a great relief for many hard pressed parents.”
Kenneth Gibson MSP added:
“I urge North Ayrshire Council to use this welcome provision and the flexibility given to them by the SNP Government to ensure that every penny of extra help available gets to those who need it most.”
The SNP Government provided local authorities with additional resource to provide free school meals this past Easter and summer holidays. By the end of the summer 156,000 children were benefitting from this support, having peaked at around 175,000 prior to summer, providing vital support to protect the health and wellbeing of children.
Local authorities who continued free school meal provision over October holidays will be reimbursed through this funding package.